In a headline-making case out of California the illegal actions of one cop are on full display before a panel of stunned jurors. Prosecutors told jurors in the Contra Costa County courthouse that they would hear tales of how one cop essentially sold his badge and engaged in a practice known as “dirty DUIs.” The fact that the practice even has a name will likely alarm many people who would never expect the people hired to protect the public to engage in such amoral behavior.
The trial, which just started this week, accuses Stephen Tanabe of violating a host of federal laws related to his role in making staged drunk driving arrests. Why did Tanabe do it? Prosecutors say that the cop was bought off by a private investigator and agreed to arrest at least three husbands of clients of the investigator.
Prosecutors say the cop was given money, an expensive gun and cocaine in exchange for making the staged arrests. The government says the private investigator approached Tanabe about making the busts so that the wives of the men would be able to strengthen their positions in ongoing divorce and custody cases.
The scheme was a complicated one and occurred when employees of the private investigator would meet the men at bars and coerce them into drinking. The private investigator, Chris Butler, would then text Tanabe and let him know the exact location of the drivers, where he would then pull them over and take them to jail. Tanabe has been charged with making three such staged arrests, but Butler, who is acting as a key witness in the case, has said that he participated in at least 12 such staged DUI arrests.
For his part, Tanabe’s attorneys argue that while their client did arrest several the men for drunk driving, there was nothing illegal about his actions. Instead, Tanabe claims that Contra Costa County is a relatively peaceful area that seldom sees serious crime. As a result, the department heads exert serious pressure on police officers to meet strict performance objectives that include making a certain number of DUI arrests each month.
Tanabe claims that the arrests he is being accused of staging were actually the product of pressure from supervisors to meet strict quotas. Failure to meet the quotas would result in disciplinary action. Tanabe claims that he and other officers in the town were frequently told to wait outside bars to watch for drivers that appeared to be unsteady or otherwise intoxicated.
Regardless of which side is telling the truth, residents of the Contra Costa community are likely disturbed at unsavory practices among local law enforcement officials. If prosecutors are right, that means cops in the area can be bought and paid for, acting as participants in plots to set up unsuspecting individuals. If Tanabe is telling the truth, then that means police officers were under extreme pressure to meet DUI quotas, lying in wait and routinely pulling over anyone seen leaving a bar. Either way, the focus does not appear to be creating a safer community, but instead lining someone’s pockets.
Source: “‘Dirty DUI’ federal trial gets underway,” published at KTVU.com.